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A Beginner’s Guide to Pu’er Tea

Think of walking through a forest in late autumn, a few hours after rain. The smell of wet leaves, moss and rich earth mingle as you scuff the gently decaying leaves.
This is how a good cup of pu’er tea should taste and smell – complex and earthy. Forest and stone, woodsmoke and lichen.
Having grown up on supermarket English tea with milk and sugar, Chinese teas were a brave new world for me. Mostly, they were a revelation – fresh and vibrant grassy green teas, and delicately floral oolongs. But I remained unconvinced about pu’er tea, thinking it tasted dank and musty – less like forest and more like wet basement and mouldy attic. I didn’t like it at all.
Pu’er is considered the pinnacle of tea-drinking for the Chinese, and often the most difficult for the rest of us to appreciate. Like wine, pu’er improves with age and develops more complex flavours. 
I hoped that by travelling along parts of the ancient Tea Horse Trail in southern Yunnan – the route by which tea travelled from its origins in Yunnan overland to Tibet, Mongolia and the rest of China – it would give me a new appreciation for the China’s finest tea. 
Completely unable to convince the rest of the family that visiting a tea workshop in the middle of nowhere followed by a climb up a mountain to a grove of ancient wild tea trees would be a fun way to spend the day, I went by myself on my own little tea trail, and learned a lot. 
The owner of the guest house in which we were staying (Yourantai) happened to be good friends with Chen Ying, a quiet Chinese woman my own age who had left a career in forestry conservation to run a tea workshop in a quiet, clean, remote part of Yunnan blessed with clean air and water and robust tea trees.
Starting in Jinghong near the Myanmar border, south of the ancient town of Pu’er for which the tea is named, I headed west and up into the hills past Menghai, visiting first the tea workshop, then tea terraces in the surrounding countryside, and lastly the mountain of Nanla, home to some of the oldest tea trees in Yunnan. 
Here’s what I learned (with still a great deal more to learn), thanks to my knowledgeable teachers that day.  
想到雨后几小时,漫步在深秋的林间。当你拖着脚轻轻走过那些腐烂的树叶时,你会闻到那些湿润的树叶,苔藓和肥沃的土壤混合的气息。正如一杯上好的普洱茶应该品尝起来的那样——复杂而又朴实。森林,岩石,林中的雾气还有那些青苔。在加牛奶和糖的英式茶超级市场中长大,中国茶对我而言是一个全新的世界,通常,他们会被这样诠释——清新活力的嫩绿色绿茶还有精致如花的乌龙。但关于普洱还是不能是我信服,想到它尝起来有种潮湿发霉的味道——不太像森林,更像是潮湿的地下室和发霉的阁楼。我一点都不喜欢。
我希望通过沿着在云南南部古时茶马古道的几个部分旅行——茶叶从云南原产地经由陆路被运到西藏、蒙古和中国其他地方的路线——可以让我对于中国最好的茶叶有一个全新的鉴赏。
对中国人而言普洱被认为是茶饮的尖峰极点,我们中其他人很难欣赏。像葡萄酒一样,普洱茶随着年限增长也会产生更多复杂的口味。
通过爬山去造访一个远古野生茶树的小树林,参观在一个无名之地的中部的茶叶作坊将会是度过愉快一天的好方式,但是我却完全不能说服家里的其他成员,所以我自行进行了一个茶叶的小追踪,并且学到了很多东西。
我们住的客栈(悠然台)的老板碰巧和陈颖是好朋友,她是一个和我年纪相仿的中国女人,离开了林业保护工作,在云南一个安静、干净、偏远的地方经营一家茶叶作坊,那里有清新的空气,水源还有强壮的茶树。
从靠近缅甸的景洪市出发,普洱即是在古镇的南边被命名的。我向西出发路过勐海县深入山丘,依次造访了茶叶作坊,附近乡下的梯田还有南拉山,一些云南最古老茶树的发源地。

下面这就是那天我了解到的一些东西 (还有很多东西要学习) 感谢知识渊博的老师们.

Chinese Tea: The Basics 中国茶: 基本要素

Chinese tea falls into three main groups based on the degree of oxidation (the effect of air on the enzymes and chemicals within the tea leaf):
1. Unoxidized: green tea, white tea

2. Partially oxidized: oolong tea, yellow tea

3. Fully oxidized: tea  pu’er tea, black tea

Southern Yunnan is where tea originated, a place of lush green hills terraced with rows of tea bushes, patches of thick green jungle, valleys filled with sugarcane and banana trees. Large leafed pu’er tea,  related to the original wild teas of the region, is grown on the sides of steeply sloped hills and harvested twice a year in spring and autumn. 
Just like the influence of terroir on wines, the altitude at which pu’er tea is grown, the age of the trees, the mineralization of the soil, the water supply, the hours of sunlight, the rate of oxidation once picked and the skill of the tea artisans controlling the oxidation process all add to the unique flavour profile of pu’er tea.
Differing from green and oolong teas, after full oxidation (drying and warming) pu’er tea is left to naturally ferment, causing it to develop complex flavour characteristics over time.
依据氧化度(空气作用于茶叶的酵素和化学作用)中国茶基本分为三大类。
未氧化的:绿茶,白茶
部分氧化:乌龙,黄茶
完全氧化:普洱茶,黑茶
云南南部是茶的发源地,一个郁郁葱葱绿色山丘,这里布满几排茶树丛的梯田,长着几块浓绿色丛林和
满甘蔗和香蕉树的山谷。大叶子的普洱茶。和部落原始的野生茶相关,长在陡峭的斜坡山边,一年可以
割两次,春天和秋天。
正如土壤对于葡萄酒的影响,普洱茶生长的海拔,树龄,土壤的矿物量,水源供给,日照时间,一经采
的氧化频率,茶叶技工的技术控制氧化程度,都决定了普洱茶独特的风味。
不同于绿茶和乌龙,在完全氧化之后(干燥和加热),普洱茶是被自然的发酵,以致让它在一段时间之
产生复杂的口味特色。

Making Pu’er Tea 制作普洱茶

After picking, the leaves are first converted to ‘rough tea’ or maocha by drying for 5-6 hours on bamboo trays, then briefly cooking in warm metal pans and ‘rolling’ by hand, curling the leaves a little. The leaves are then sorted to separate the premium larger leaves from twigs and small leaves.
The leaves spend one day in the ‘greenhouse’ drying further – a large airy room with a glass roof concentrating the warmth. 
在采摘之后,叶子首先通过在竹盘上干燥56个小时被转化成“粗糙的茶”或者说是毛茶,然后短暂的在金属平底锅里蒸煮处理一下,在用手“揉搓”,将叶子弄卷曲一些。然后将茶叶分类,将大一些的叶子和细枝和小叶子分隔开来。 用一天的时间将叶子在“温室中”进一步烘干——一个有玻璃房顶保暖又通风的大房间。

The dried tea is measured into 200g portions, placed into a cotton bag and steamed briefly before being compressed into a cake or bing. The bag’s twirled knot gives the pu’er cake its distinctive indentation.
干燥好的茶叶将按200克一份进行分量分配,放在一个棉布袋里,在压成饼状之前短暂的蒸一下。布袋转动打结可以给普洱茶饼做一个特色的压痕。
Each cake is then placed under a heavy stone weight and the stone ‘rocked’ to further compress the tea
每一块茶饼然后被放在一个重石下面,晃动石头进一步压紧茶饼。
The tea cake is removed from the cotton bag, still steaming but now compressed flat, and placed to dry on racks for two further days. After this the tea is fully oxidized and ready to start the process of aging or fermentation.

从布袋拿出茶饼,仍然冒着蒸汽,但是现在被压平了,放在货架上再干燥两天。在这之后,茶就充分地氧化了,准备开始成年或者发酵的历程。

Wrapped in locally made paper, free of chemicals that might taint the tea, the tea is stored in traditional bundles of seven cakes wrapped together in banana husk – qi zi bing cha

用本地纸包装,完全不含污染茶叶的化学物质,茶叶以传统方式用香蕉外壳把七个茶饼一起捆绑为一束——七子饼茶。
This is sheng cha or green pu’er tea. Over the next eight to ten years the residual moisture in the tea leaves will allow it to slowly ferment, developing more and more complex flavours with age
这个就是生茶或者说是绿普洱茶,在接下来的八到十年里茶叶里剩余的水分将可以慢慢地发酵,伴随年限产生越来越多的复杂的口味。
Brewing the Perfect Cup of Pu’er Tea 酿造完美的普洱茶

The mysteries of the perfect cup of tea seemed insurmountable to a mere tea mortal like myself with way too much fuss, bother, equipment and paraphernalia involved.  So it was entirely refreshing to have Chen Ying tell me she makes her pu’er both the traditional way, and a quick way if she’s drinking tea alone.
The necessary equipment:
1. A small teapot made from pure clay (eg Yixing ware), so as not to cause any chemical impurities to seep into the tea.
2. A glass jug into which the tea can be decanted
3. Porcelain tea cups
4. Boiling water and tea
Method:
1. Break off a small of amount of pu’er tea from the cake, add tea to pot
2. Fill the pot to overflowing wth just-boiled water, replace lid and pour water over pot to warm it
3. Allow to brew very briefly then pour the first brew of tea over the tea cups – this rinses both  the tea leaves (removing any dust or impurities) and the tea cups
4. Fill pot for a second time with boiling water
5. Allow to steep for 30 seconds
6. Decant tea into glass jug, and from there pour into individual tea cups
7. Refill teapot with water and repeat for up to 15 steepings, according to taste
If she’s in a hurry Chen Ying says she just puts some leaves into a lidded porcelain teacup and allows it to steep in the cup, adding more water as needed. She explained though, that tea drinking should always be a relaxing activity, with the proper time taken to do it well.
When to Drink Tea
There is really no better reminder of the best times to drink tea than to follow the esoteric directions in Hsu Tse Shu’s Ming Dynasty poem:

Proper Moments for Drinking Tea

When one’s heart and hands are idle.
Tired after reading poetry.
When one’s thoughts are disturbed.
Listening to songs and ditties.
When a song is completed.
Shut up at one’s home on a holiday.
Playing the ch’in and looking over paintings
Engaged in conversation deep at night.
Before a bright window and a clean desk.
With charming friends and slender concubines.
Returning from a visit with friends.
When the day is clear and the breeze is mild.
On a day of light showers.
In a painted boat near a small wooden bridge.
In a forest with tall bamboos.
In a pavilion overlooking lotus flowers on a summer day.
Having lighted incense in a small studio.
After a feast is over and the guests are gone.
When children are at school.
In a quiet, secluded temple.
Near famous springs and quaint rocks.


对于我这样一个万分慌乱、烦恼,还得准备好各种器材和设备的普通人而言,完美茶饮的未解之谜看起来简直是不可解的。因此当陈颖告诉我她做普洱茶的两种方式,传统方式和独酌的快捷方式的时候,真的让我很振奋。

必要的设备:
用纯泥土制作的小茶壶(例如宜兴茶具),不会让任何化学杂质渗入到茶里。
一个茶水可以被轻轻倒出的玻璃水壶。
瓷质茶杯
沸水和茶叶

方法:
从普洱茶饼上折断一小块,将茶叶放在壶里
用刚煮沸的水注满茶壶,移开茶盖并且将水倒在壶上面,使它变暖
迅速地冲泡一下然后将茶的第一泡倒在茶杯上——这是冲洗茶叶(去除灰尘和杂质)和茶杯
用沸水将茶壶二次填满
浸泡约30秒钟
将茶轻轻倒入玻璃水壶,再从那里给个人杯子倒茶
重新用水填满茶壶,依据口味,最多可以浸泡15

陈颖说,如果忙的话,她会把一些茶叶放入带盖子的瓷茶杯里边,让茶叶在里边泡一泡,然后再加入更多的水。她解释说,饮茶虽然应该是一件放松的事情,但是也要在合适的时间把它做好。

什么时候饮茶
关于什么时候饮茶,没有比跟随明朝诗人许次纾的诗更合适了:
饮时
  心手闲适,披咏疲倦,意绪纷乱,听歌拍曲,歌罢曲终,杜门避事,鼓琴看画,夜深共语,明窗净几,洞房阿阁,宾主款狎,佳客小姬,访友初归,风日晴和,轻阴微雨,小桥画舫,茂林修竹,课花责鸟,荷亭避暑,小院焚香,酒阑人散,儿辈斋馆,清幽寺观,名泉怪石。

Pu’er Tea: The Taste  普洱茶:味道
I tried five different pu’er teas that day – a recently pressed sheng cha or fresh pu’er, which had a light herbaceous taste, then a one, three, four and five year old tea. Each different year brought a variety of new tastes – light smoke, polished wood, wet leaves and earth. None were musty or mouldy tasting, and there wasn’t a single hint of basement or attic. They were all smooth and very refreshing.
I had officially been converted. I bought two cakes of the oldest tea I could afford, which turned out to be three years old. One to drink now, and one to keep for as long as possible. Chen Ying’s oldest tea, eight years old, was entirely out of my price range at around $150 per bing. Imagine the price of a twenty, thirty or fifty year old tea!
那天我尝试了五种不同的普洱茶刚加压的生茶或者新普洱,有一种淡淡的草本的味道,以及一年,三年,四年和五年的陈茶。不同年份的茶有不同的味道淡淡的雾气,光滑的树干,超湿的叶子,还有土壤。没有哪一种尝起来有霉味,也没有一点阁楼或者地下室的印记。他们都很柔滑,而且非常提神。
我完全折服了。我买了两块我能承受价格的最老的茶饼,这些茶饼的茶龄最终证实是3年。一份现喝,一份尽可能久地保存。陈颖所有的最老的茶已经有八年了,它的价格已经完全超出了我的范围,每块茶饼大约要150美元。想想20年,30年,甚至50年的茶叶的价格吧!

Buying Pu’er Tea 购买普洱茶

As the exclusivity and value of pu’er tea has increased in China, so has the ingenuity and guile of those willing to risk prosecution to make money from the everyday consumer – you and me. 
Scams I heard about included (but clearly weren’t limited to) the classic bait and switch (try a tea of very high quality, then be sold a pu’er cake of inferior tea) and the sale of semi-fake cakes of pu’er with high quality outer leaves (so when you break off a little and test it, it seems the genuine article) but filled with cheap, inferior tea on the inside.
Buying aged pu’er is also problematic, as the price rises exponentially with the age of the tea. What condition has the tea been stored in for all of that ten or more years?  Has the tea changed hands during that time?
Just as it’s difficult and daunting to know which red wines to buy when you first start out (and in China the red wine market is equally full of fakery and quackery) the suggestion is to make friends with a tea lover and learn from them. Taste plenty of teas and learn which you like best, find out who their trusted tea suppliers are buy only from them.
Ultimately though, it comes down to taste – your taste – and buying what you enjoy drinking even if it’s inexpensive or younger than fully aged pu’er tea.
由于独垄断占性,以及普洱茶在中国价格的走高,因此那些狡猾的人会冒着被起诉的风险从寻常消费者(包括你我)身上赚钱。
我听说过的欺诈不过(当然不限于)经典的诱饵营销(品尝一种很高品质的茶,然后卖给顾客次级普洱),出售半假的茶饼——他们外层包着高品质的茶叶,但内层确实便宜的次品(因此,当顾客从茶饼上掰下来一小点品尝时,尝起来就像是正品)。
由于普洱的价格随年代的增加而呈指数上涨,买年份久的普洱茶也是有问题的。这些茶在过去的10年或者更久的时间里是在什么样的环境中保存的?在这些时间里,它们被倒手过么?
就像开始买红酒时,很难判断应该买哪一种一样(在中国,红酒市场充斥着假货和骗子),在开始买普洱的时候,我的建议是和茶叶爱好者交朋友,向他们学习。品尝大量的茶,然后知道自己最喜欢那个,找出他们最信赖的茶商,然后只从这些茶商购买。
不过最终,还是要回归到口味上——你自己的品味——买你喜欢的茶,尽管他们可能不那么贵,或者年份并不久远。

Storing Pu’er Tea 储存普洱茶

Pu’er needs to be stored in a clean, dark, dry, airy place, wrapped in its original paper to keep it clean. Excessive moisture will lead to mould. 
普洱茶需要存放在干净,阴暗,干燥和通风的地方,用最初的纸包裹起来以保持清洁。湿度过大可能会导致发霉。

Resources for Learning More:
Seven Cups  – a US website dedicated to Chinese tea
Making Pu’er tea – a demonstration video at www.dianxitea.com
Information about Pu’er tea and Chen Ying’s tea workshop can be found at her website www.qualitea2005.com

Post 500: How I Went To China and Became a Writer

Five hundred posts! How the hell did that happen? 

Five hundred posts couldn’t happen without all of you – a blog is nothing without readers and I’m enormously grateful to you wonderful food lovers and adventurers for dropping by, reading, sending emails, posting comments and continuing to drop by, making it all worthwhile. It’s been a great joy to get to know so many of you in person too.

So please drop in for dumplings anytime you’re in Shanghai – it would be a pleasure and an honour.

To be honest though I’ve been struggling with this post in my head for quite some time. The 500th post should be deep and meaningful, reflective and insightful, right? Needless to say it’s been sitting here half written for some weeks and now it’s down to the wire. It has to be posted, because otherwise it will be Post 501 or Post 504. Not as punchy. 
Three years ago, almost to the day, I started Life on Nanchang Lu – ostensibly as a way to document Shanghai life around me, but in reality and with the benefit of hindsight, I can see it was because China was completely overwhelming me and I subconsciously needed to make some sense of it.

While outwardly I claimed to be loving my new life in China, inwardly I was struggling with the loss of identity that comes with leaving a well-established career in medicine to relocate to a country where you know no one, can’t work and don’t speak the language. The combination of frigid wet weather and the frustration of being functionally illiterate and friendless in a society I found extraordinarily confusing (how can a country of 1.3 billion people function if nobody queues??) was tough, at least for those first months.
A blog seemed a good place to start to clear through the confusion and frustration I was feeling. Lord knows intensive Chinese classes and therapy sessions might have done the same job but there it is. A blog was born.

Who would have thought that three years, five hundred posts and a lot of late nights later, I would be a food and travel writer with more than sixty published articles under my belt? I honestly didn’t see it coming and I didn’t set out to become a writer, but I love writing and telling stories about food and places. And if I hadn’t come to China (a country which I now dearly love, even with all its faults) this would never have happened, so for that I will always be thankful.

So here goes Post 500, about how I came to China and inadvertently became a writer, dedicated to all the many talented but as yet unpublished writers out there.

I Started Small

Two years ago, just as I began to think it might be possible to write outside of my blog, I was introduced to the editor of Parents and Kids Magazine – a monthly magazine for Shanghai’s expat families. We got chatting about a recent holiday and I was asked to write a travel piece for the magazine. It would be unpaid because I was an unpublished and untested writer, but it seemed like a great place to start because if I was going to write I wanted to write about travel and food, the two topics close to my heart.

It turned out to be a good decision – Parents and Kids belonged to a group of publications under the same owner, so after that first article was published I was asked to write a series of blog posts for their main website, City Weekend Shanghai, on new things to try in Shanghai followed by a blog series called Try Everything Once.

As is common with many print magazines, online blog content is essentially unpaid, written largely by either staff writers or by bloggers like me. Part of me baulked at doing so much work for nothing week after week for several months, but I felt confident it would lead eventually, one way or another, to paid writing commissions.

Soon after, City Weekend’s family columnist resigned and I took her place writing Family Matters: a fortnightly column about family life in China, and this time a paid gig in their high-circulation print magazine. I was overjoyed! That column became my regular for well over a year until I resigned after leaving for the Great China Roadtrip.

Now you might say writing about family life wasn’t ever going to lead to writing about what I really wanted to – food and travel – but it got me a byline and an audience and gave me a valuable grounding in the way magazines work and what makes an editor happy. I considered it my magazine apprenticeship.

This regular published work led to my becoming the Food Feature writer for Shanghai Family Magazine, then travel writer for That’s Shanghai and That’s Beijing Magazines, which led to work with the Sunday Times, CNNGo, and Oryx magazine. I would never have had a chance with any of those bigger publications if I hadn’t started small and built up experience.

I Found a Mentor

Negotiating the tricky world of freelancer contracts, editorial decisions and pitching stories would have been unimaginable for someone like me without a journalism degree. I needed the help of those wiser and more experienced than myself.

Luckily blogging helped put me in touch with just the people whose advice I needed. It turns out a lot of food journalists, writers and editors come to Shanghai at one point or another for stories, and they often look to local bloggers as a source of information and referrals.

Whenever I met a writer or editor I asked questions, lots of them, and learned from their years of experience. They were all, without exception, delightful people and happy to pass on their knowledge and expertise to someone way below them. Some became firm friends and continue to be mentors to me, some became my editors. Which leads me to the next point…..

 

I Tried to Keep My Editors Happy

I was in terrified awe of some of the editors I met, but once I got to know them I realized they all wanted one thing from their freelancers: to make their busy and stressful lives easier, not more difficult. 
All editors want articles that are on time, come close to the specified word count, and have been edited for spelling and grammatical errors. It sounds basic, but I heard editors so often complain about freelancers who turned in 3000 words for a 750 word piece they ‘couldn’t trim’, or had to be chased for weeks past deadline and then turned in nothing publishable.

As The Grumpy Traveller (freelance travel journalist David Whitley) notes, editors will take reliability over brilliance almost every time.

I Kept My Day Job

Let’s be perfectly frank here – writing is possibly one of the most difficult ways on the planet to make a living. If you break it down to an hourly pay scale, you’d be fiscally better off working in a supermarket – so if your day job pays better than supermarket wages, keep it. At least until your fifth novel goes gangbusters and makes you super, super rich.
As a day job it’s hard to better working in Emergency Medicine – if you happen to have done six years of medical school and six years of specialist training that is. The hours are flexible, it pays pretty well and you’re often free when everyone else is at work – perfect conditions for getting a lot of writing done.

I Learnt Another Skill

I took up photography for the creative enjoyment when I arrived in Shanghai, but it gradually became a marketable skill I could offer editors.

Before print publishing was decimated by online media, magazines would rarely dream of hiring the same person to write and photograph a feature. But in these days of tight budgets and major online competition, being able to offer editors a package of writing and photography means I can command a higher fee than for the writing alone, and may mean the difference between an editor choosing my pitch over someone else’s.

Obviously I’m not talking about National Geographic, but about magazines who need good quality photography to illustrate a story. I have always provided my own images for the stories I write, which means I also have more input into which images are chosen. It must be frustrating to write something amazing only to have it illustrated with a stock photography beach shot.

I Kept Writing

Week in, week out, whether I had a deadline or not I kept writing – blog posts, ideas and pitches. I blogged because I love to share stories, and I’ll continue blogging as long as all of you wonderful people keep reading.

Blogging keeps up the habit and practice of writing until it becomes an ingrained part of life. Blogging isn’t my job and I make absolutely no money from it, but it has given me the freedom and space to develop my own writing style and voice, and at the same time has become my online business card and CV rolled into one, a place where potential employers can see what I do for themselves, and contact me easily.

The Future

I hope to be able to continue writing about China for a long time yet – there’s certainly a bottomless pit of stories from my last three years here, most of which are untold.  Life on Nanchang Lu will continue to be around whether I’m in Shanghai or back home in Australia and just dreaming about Shanghai.

And once our travels are over I’m planning to sit down in a quiet place to write a book about them – my biggest writing project yet. I’m terrified and excited by the prospect all at once, but can’t wait to get cracking. I’ll keep you updated with how it’s progressing.

Helpful Resources:

Dianne Jacob’s practical, sensible and extraordinarily helpful book Will Write For Food is like a road map for carving out a food writing career. Although written specifically for food writers her solid advice applies equally to budding writers in any field.

Pitching Errors: How Not to Pitch – from website The Open Notebook  offers valuable advice on what  not to do when pitching a magazine story. They also keep an interesting Pitching Database of successful pitches.

The Single Most Important Piece of Advice for Freelance Writers by The Grumpy Traveller is well written advice that should give all freelancers heart. He also has a useful section on Writing and Media

If you have a story to tell or a tip to share about writing, I’d love to hear it! 

Ten Must Try Foods in Yunnan 十大不容错过的云南美食

Yunnan is mountains and clouds, mists and forests, jungles and wilderness, and a richly textured and coloured human landscape of different ethnic minorities, each with their own strong food culture. Tucked into a corner of China bordering Tibet, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, Yunnan’s diverse food reflects its topography, unique climate, human population, and the food of its neighbours.
Here are a group of ten foods we enjoyed over the last few weeks as we travelled through Yunnan from the cold and mountainous north, to the subtropical jungles in the south and the exquisite rice terraces landscape of the east. We’ve eaten well, as you can see!
There are some Yunnan foods you won’t find here, either because I’ve written about them before (Crossing the Bridge Noodles, Bugs, Barks and Dragonfly Nymphs and Yunnan Ham) or because I’m writing about them in an upcoming post (like Yunnan’s famed Pu’er tea).
Feast the eyes!
1. Mi xian 米线
A warming bowl of rich stock filled with slippery smooth rice noodles, and topped with a dizzying array of bright bursting tastes: sour, salty, fiery, and bitter. This is mi xian, possibly the most popular street snack in all of Yunnan and one of the few that is eaten in every corner of the province. 
In the last four weeks I’ve tasted ten or fifteen variations of this noodle dish, each particular to a local area and/or a particular street vendor. The essentials are always the same – rice noodles, thick or fine, your choice – served in a broth made of stock, along with some leafy greens and the addition of various condiments and toppings. 
The condiments might include any or all of the following – pickled beans, chili oil, pork cooked with fermented soybeans, soy sauce, cilantro, finely diced fat pork, fermented chili, hot tomato salsa, or pickled cabbage. In the middle of Yunnan in the small town of Changning, every bowl comes topped with hearty hunks of cold cooked pork and crispy shards of pork crackling, just for something different.
满满一碗热腾腾的爽滑的大米做的面条,上面排列着眼花缭乱的调味:酸的,咸的,热辣的还有点苦的味道。这就是米线。这很可能是云南最著名的街道小吃了,而且在这个省市的任何一个角落都可以找到一家米线店。
在过去的四星期我们吃了1015种面食,每一个都是本地的特色或者是特色的街边排挡。但实质都是一样盛在肉汤里面的大米做的面条,满满的,撒些绿色蔬菜还有各种调味品和浇头。调味品可能包含每一样或是会有接下来的这些东西腌制过的豆子,豆瓣酱加工过的猪肉,香菜,肉酱,辣椒酱,西红柿洋葱做的辣调味汁,或者是大白菜泡菜。在云南中部的一个叫崇安的小镇,每一碗上面都会浇上用心烹制过的凉肉和猪油渣脆皮片.

2. Wild Herbs Ye Cai 野菜
When I read ‘fresh wild herbs salad’ on a menu in Lijiang I thought of mint and wild plants. It sounded fresh and delicious and very, very green – just what I was hankering after. When this plate of brown lichen arrived I sent it back to the kitchen, thinking a mistake had been made, where the chef patiently explained to me this was ‘wild herbs’ ye cai 野菜, an all encompassing term apparently meaning ‘anything growing wild in the forest’. 
I’ve since tasted many delicious versions of this salad with frail feathery lichen, mixed with cilantro and mint leaves, a little sharp chili, and a touch of sweet soy, but sadly the bark-like lichen doesn’t improve no matter what you do to it.
当我在丽江读到新鲜野菜沙拉的时候我想到薄荷和各种野菜。它听起来很新鲜美味,而且非常非常绿正如我期待的那样。当这个盛满棕色苔藓的盘子端上来的时候,我把它退回了厨房,想着肯定是搞错了,但是厨师耐心地解释这就是野菜,一个涵盖范围过广的术语显然意味着任何长在森林的野生植物。我曾经尝过许多这种美味的沙拉,混合着香菜,薄荷叶,加一点辣椒还有少许甜豆酱。

3. Sour fish stew 酸汤鱼

The first flavour you recognize is sourness from the fermented chili sauce used, and the sweet fish – then the full force of chili heat sears your lips. After that, you taste little but chili but the texture is sublime – the silky, soft, soothing cubes of fresh tofu and the crunch of scallions. 
最先辨识的味道就是酿制的辣椒酱的酸味和鲜美的鱼而后热辣的味道就快要灼伤你的嘴唇。在那之后,你稍稍尝一点,但是辣椒的辣还存留于口中柔滑爽口的豆腐块还有一些葱段。

4. Roast Tofu 烤豆腐
This Yi lady sits at a low table inside the restaurant with an old wok full of charcoal covered by a grill, carefully turning each of the squares of 五天豆腐 wu tian doufu, five days old and just starting to ferment and soften slightly in the centre, while dry on the outside. 
The outsides begin to brown and soon enough they’re little nutty, crispy balls with soft warm centres, ready to eat, dipped into a sauce made with soy sauce, ground sichuan green pepper, cilantro and pickled chili.
And yes, that’s what she wears to work every day, and no, it’s not for tourists. Beautiful isn’t it?

一个女士坐在饭店内的低矮的桌旁,上面是一个装满木炭的珐琅餐盘,她小心的翻煎着方形的五天豆腐,五天豆腐才开始煎烤(发酵),中心慢慢地些许变软,变成褐色,外边还是干的。外面开始变棕的时候,浸在由豆子,青葱和腌制的辣酱做的调味汁里,就可以吃了。

5. Dai Style Feast 傣族宴会

In southern Yunnan the local people, the Dai,  share much in common with those of northern Thailand and Laos. They love communal eating, hot and sour flavours, and the dishes feature the local fish and a combination of mint, ginger, chilies and sour pickles.
A Dai feast arives all at once, with everything meant to be sampled and shared. Bowls of steamed wild greens and uncooked herbs are served with a choice of four dipping sauces – a mild crushed peanut sauce, a sour pickled chili sauce, a fiery fermented tomato sauce, and a rich, deep, dark sauce made with fermented tofu.
At the centre of the table is a platter of roasted fish and meats, all char-grilled and smoky – sweet slices of barbecued ham, crispy-skinned chicken, fish wrapped in banana leaves, pork and mint sausage, and siced fatty pork. There is a tiny dish of a salty, peppery, spice mixture in which to dip your meat.
There are several hot dishes too – a free-range chicken (tuji 土鸡)cooked in a light broth, and pumpkin leaf shoots in a soup that magically takes away the heat of the chillies.
在云南南部的居住民族是傣族,他们分享着和泰国北部还有老挝一样的习俗。他们喜欢一起吃东西,喜欢酸辣的口味还有烤鱼和烤肉。
傣族宴会即将开始,每一样食物都是样品和供人共享的。盛放蒸熟的野菜碗和没加工过的野菜会配有四五种蘸酱汁淡淡的花生碎沙司,酸辣酱沙司,热辣的番茄沙司,还有用发酵豆腐做的深色沙司。
桌子中间有一大盘烤鱼和烤肉,都是碳烤和烟熏的,烧烤火腿片,脆皮鸡,裹着香蕉叶的鱼,猪肉,薄荷香肠,肥猪肉片还有猪耳朵。有一个小盘盛着咸盐,胡椒和混合香料,可以配肉品尝。
也有热菜在肉汤里炖煮的家鸡,汤中的南瓜枝叶很神奇的带走了辣椒的热辣。




6. Egg Yolk Fruit 蛋黄果
Yunnan is full of the most unusual foods you won’t find anywhere else in China. I had seen these globe-sized yellow fruits in the markets – bright golden yellow and very soft on the inside, the first mouthful feels just like a bite of soft-boiled egg. 
Your mouth is confused by the texture because the taste doesn’t match – the fruit is a little sweet with a flavour somewhere between sweet roast pumpkin and ripe papaya, but mostly unlike anything else. It goes very well with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
云南有各种你在中国其他地方找不到的食物,我曾在超市里见过这些球形的黄色水果,最终有机会品尝它们,里面的金黄色非常柔软,第一口感觉咬到软软的刚煮好的鸡蛋似的。你的嘴巴都被这种质地搞糊涂了,因为这种味道不符合任何一种其他水果这种水果有点甜,有点像熟木瓜的味道,但主要的味道不同于任何一种水果。牙齿咬出酸橙汁的那一刻感觉棒极了。

 7. Baba 粑粑
This popular street snack, served hot and wrapped in banana leaf, is chewy, sticky, and sweet.  Circles of purple sticky rice dough are first grilled over charcoal, where they puff up into a ball over the heat and soften, then flattened and filled with dark brown sugar which quickly melts, before being folded or rolled into a neat, sweet package.
这种有名的街边小吃,用香蕉叶包裹着的热乎乎的盛着,粘粘的,甜甜的。紫糯米团先在木炭上烘烤,他们通过加热膨胀成球形,慢慢变软,然后扁平,在折叠或者卷成一个小甜包裹之前,里面夹上很快溶化的深棕色糖。

8. Fresh Lime juice 柠檬水
In southern Yunnan, neighbouring Burma and Laos, tropical fruit grows abundantly even in winter. Papayas, pineapples, mangoes and passionfruit are served up as juice in tiny streetside juice stalls.
Everyone’s favourite refresher though is ning meng shui 柠檬水 or homemade sweet lime juice. The juice of two or three limes, some sugar syrup, ice and cold water. 
在云南南部,紧邻缅甸和老挝,甚至在冬天都生长着大量的热带水果,木瓜,菠萝,芒果还有热带果,在小街的果汁摊位都有所售卖。人人都喜欢新鲜提神的柠檬水或是自制的甜酸橙汁。两三种果汁,外加一些糖浆还有冰水。

9. Paoluda 泡鲁达
Intriguing and bizarrely addictive, the individual components of paoluda 泡鲁达 don’t sound altogether appetizing: tapioca, sweet condensed milk, black sticky rice, jelly cubes, chunks of dried bread or biscuit and shaved coconut. But this hot weather desert or drink (depending on whether you have it in a bowl or a tall glass with a thick straw) served over ice is surprisingly fabulous.
The locals told me the desert is Burmese in origin, and the name is a pinyinised version of the Indian and Persian drink falooda, which it closely resembles.
很莫名其妙的使人上瘾,非常的有趣,泡鲁达的主要成分整体来看不怎么有胃口:木薯淀粉,甜炼乳,黑糯米,果冻干面包或是饼干屑还有椰子肉。但这种热天之下在冰上面放着甜点或是饮料(你可以自主选择放在碗里还是在高高的玻璃杯里加一根粗吸管)真是惊人的美味。本地人告诉我甜点是原产于缅甸,名字则是印度人和波斯人喝的法鲁达的拼音拼写。

10. Sticky Rice Sticks 糯米油条
Small balls of sweetened sticky rice dough are stretched into short lengths before being laid gently in bubbling oil, where they puff and lengthen into a crisp sweet stick with a chewy gooey centre. These nuomi youtiao 糯米油条 (sticky rice oil sticks) are sweeter and lighter than their street food breakfast counterparts, you tiao
I declared them Yunnan’s version of the donut, minus the cinnamon.
甜味糯米团做的小球被穿在短棍上,放入滚烫的油锅中,慢慢膨胀逐渐变成一个中间是粘粘的外皮是脆脆的长棍。我敢说,去掉桂皮后,这就是云南版本的炸面圈。

Travels Round China by Food:

All Smoke, No Lava: Tengchong Volcano Park 腾冲火山公园

Ever since the Brady Bunch went to Hawaii and saw volcanoes I’ve wanted to see a real volcano too, glowing with lava and occasionally letting off spurts of sulphurous steam. Like Indianna Jones faced with the Temple of Doom, the thought of a sacrificial pit filled with bubbling lava was very thrilling to my fourteen year-old self, although I wasn’t as keen on the human sacrifice component involved. 

Suffice to say I have a highly romantic and somewhat idealised mental vision of volcanoes, dented somewhat when Mount St Helens erupted, completely lava free, killing fifty seven, and rekindled after recently re-reading Mark Twain’s American travel odyssey Roughing It, with a description of a night-time walk across the three-mile wide crater of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii:
“Under us, and stretching away before us, was a heaving sea of molten fire of seemingly limitless extent. The glare from it was so blinding that it was some time before we could bear to look upon it steadily.
It was like gazing at the sun at noon-day, except that the glare was not quite so white. At unequal distances all around the shores of the lake were nearly white-hot chimneys or hollow drums of lava, four or five feet high, and up through them were bursting gorgeous sprays of lava-gouts and gem spangles, some white, some red and some golden—a ceaseless bombardment, and one that fascinated the eye with its unapproachable splendor.”
Mark Twain, Roughing It, 1872
自从布雷迪去夏威夷看到那些我也曾如此期待的火山,伴着火山岩浆喷发耀出红光,喷射出硫磺。就像印第安纳琼斯面对末日殿堂一般,想到一个充满熔岩沸腾的献祭深渊令14岁的我不禁毛骨悚然,虽然我不喜欢有人类牺牲这样的内容掺和进去。我只想说我的确有一种高尚的浪漫主义情怀,把火山理想精神化了,削弱了当圣海伦斯火山爆发,完全的熔岩释放,致使57人遇难又重新复燃的实情,在最近重读马克吐温的美国人在奥德赛旅行,艰难岁月一书中有一段描述是在夏威夷徒步走夜路穿越基拉韦厄火山的一个三英里宽的火山口。
“在下面,我们面前是一条绵延至远方的道路,一片起伏的火海看起来没有尽头。耀眼的光芒使人目眩,带我们平稳的看清下面还需要一定的时间。就像是在正午时分直视着太阳一样,除了刺眼的光不是那么白以外。沿着湖岸边不规则的距离都是白热化的烟囱或是中空的鼓形熔岩,四五英尺高,在它们之上是一团团熔岩华丽爆炸的喷雾还有像闪烁发光的珠宝一般,一些是白的,一些是红的,还有一些是金色的一连串的爆炸,发出的无与伦比的光彩吸引着你的眼球。” 马克吐温艰难岁月1872


So after hearing that western Yunnan is home to China’s own volcano cluster, we took an almighty detour towards the Myanmar border to the centre of the action at the Tengchong Volcano Park, or more properly and Chinglish-ly named the National Geo Park Of Tengchong Volcanic And Geothermal. I guess that covers everything.
My expectations of volcanic satisfaction were high, given that in China everything is big. This was going to be major, and we could also say it was educational and therefore justify the four days’ round trip out of our way to see it.  
The whole Tengchong region is a hotbed of seismic activity with volcanoes, hot springs, geysers and reasonably frequent earthquakes. We thought it might be an exciting place to take the kids to maybe see some science in action, but just in case we saw a bit too much science in action we made a family pact not to tell anyone back home until after we were safely somewhere else. Which we now are.
I’d built up quite an exciting level of risk in my mind, imagining walking Twain-style across a just-cooled crater of lava, but my first niggling doubts that the experience might be just slightly underwhelming came when we arrived at the Volcano Park and purchased tickets.
“Would you like tickets to Big Empty Mountain, Small Empty Mountain, Black Empty Mountain or all three?” the ticket seller asked. 
Empty? I thought. Empty? Surely not. 
We opted for Big Empty Mountain, being the biggest, but first took a turn through the Volcano Museum where they displayed an out-of-work geiger counter and a battery-operated volcano replica at least as tall as a person, rivers of red cellophane lava flowing endlessly down its sides. This was going to be GOOD.
Outside beyond the impressive five flagpoles Big Empty Mountain looked decidedly small up close, so I checked the map just in case we had detoured to Small Empty Mountain by mistake. We hadn’t, because the flat tree-covered hillock off to our right was, in fact, Small Empty Mountain, and Big Empty Mountain was dead ahead.

所以听说云南西部也是重活本土火山群的故土时,我们毅然决然的绕道前往缅甸边界进入腾冲火山公园的活动中心,更适当的讲,中英文名字叫做腾冲火山和地热国家地理公园。我想这名字包含了所有信息了。我对于火山印象期待很高,因为之前已经有一种中国每件东西都很巨大的印象。这次也一定不同凡响,我们也可以讲这是很有教育意义的,因而也能见证我们偏离正常路线绕行4天的旅行专程来看它。
整个腾冲就是火山活跃带的温床,温泉,间歇喷泉还有适度频率的地震。我们原以为这应该是个可以带孩子们来的很有意思的地方,也许可以看看运动中的科学,但是以防万一,我们看这种运动的科学有点多,我们达成一个家庭协议。直到我们安全了才会在回家之后告诉其他人。也就是现在。
在我脑海里形成这一点确实比较冒险,想象走在一个刚刚冷却的台湾风格的火山岩坑口,但我首先零星的怀疑竟是当我们到了火山公园买票的时候这种经历无足轻重。
“你想要去大空山小空山, 黑空山或者包含三种的门票吗?” 卖票人询问.
空的? 我想了一下. 空的? 当然不要了.
我们选择大空山,因为是最大的,但先转个弯浏览一下火山博物馆,那里陈列着废弃的盖革计数器和一个和人一般高的电池供电的火山复制品,红玻璃纸做的火山熔岩沿着边界流下。这个真的很不错。
走出外面,印象深刻的五个旗杆旁边的大空山看起来真的很小,所以我检查了一下地图,以防万一我们误绕到了小空山,但是我们没有,因为在我们右边平坦的树木覆盖着的小丘事实上就是小空山,而大空山就是面前这个。
Big Empty Mountain. Be very afraid.




The climb up Big Empty Mountain’s 648 stairs was just the thing for building anticipation of what a real volcano crater would look like. Never mind that the volcano itself was small. The crater would be black. Crusted with ancient lava. Perhaps occasional little puffs of high-pressure steam. Maybe.

Huffing and puffing, we arrived at the top to find this:

爬上大空山648级台阶就像是不断建立期待中真正的火山口是什么样的,无所谓火山本身多小。火山口很黑,远古时期陈旧的熔岩。也许偶尔会有高压蒸汽产生的小小喘息,也许。气喘吁吁的我们到达顶峰时发现:

Possibly the boring-est photo of a volcano ever taken. Ever.

At least the view from the top was lovely, and for a very brief minute we were able to convince the kids that the far off hill was smoking, until the cloud moved and destroyed that illusion.

I asked the girls how they thought it might have been better.

The older one favoured a scorched earth approach to volcano improvement:

“They should have taken away all the trees and grass so it looked more like a real volcano” (volcanoes in her mind being blackened cones of rock glowing red from within).

The younger one felt some lava inside the crater would have been better than “a bunch of trees” or failing that “at least a lake you could swim in”.

In summary, they named it a “spectacular disappointment” and didn’t even stop to look at the lava souvenirs carved into fish shapes, something they may one day regret.

至少从山顶看下去很美。有一刻我们可以向孩子们确认遥远的山峰还在喘息,直到云朵移开,打破了我的幻觉。我问孩子们她们觉得怎样会感觉更好点。大一点的孩子赞成用焦土的方法改进火山:“他们应该把树和草都移开,让它看起来像一个真的火山”(在她印象中火山应该是内部闪着红光的黑色锥形石)。小一点的觉得火山口里面的熔岩应该比“一丛树木”更好些,或者就算不是的话“至少是一个你能在里面游泳的湖”。总之,她们把这个称作是“无比的沮丧”(坑爹),甚至不想停下来看看雕刻成鱼的形状的火山纪念品,也许有一天他们会有点遗憾的。

The Sea of Heat 热海
Which is how we ended up later that day at the fabled Tengchong Sea of Heat, acres of boiling waters, geysers, bubbling mud and noxious gases. At least, that’s what we all thought it should have. We did know there was an outdoor swimming pool heated with therapeutic underground spring waters, and if there’s one thing that makes up for pretty much any disappointment when you’re a child, it’s the thought of splashing around in a swimming pool for a few hours.

We spent an hour searching through the campervan’s dozen or more cupboards for everyone’s swimming costumes, unworn since the beach on Lian Island, packed them into a bag along with changes of clothes and hairbrushes, and fought our way to the ticket office through a hundred tour buses and a hundred ladies selling eggs wrapped in raffia in the carpark. Why eggs? We had no idea.

The smiling ladies behind the vast ticket counter asked whether we wanted to see everything in the Sea of Heat, or just a select few things like the Boiling Cauldron and the Sea of Pearls.

“We just want to go swimming actually” we said.

“OK, so altogether that’s one thousand and seventy two yuan” she told me.

I handed her a one hundred yuan note, thinking she’d said seventy two yuan.

“No, no, a thousand and seventy two yuan. Two hundred and sixty eight yuan each person” she replied. That’s close to a hundred and eighty dollars. Two hundred and sixty eight yuan is the same price you would pay for dinner for ten in a local restaurant, or a room in a 4 star Chinese hotel.

At this point, expensive disappointing volcano behind us and promise of swimming rapidly evaporating before us, I became one of those tourists. The one who can’t believe how expensive everything is. The one who has to make her point known to the poor dummy manning the ticket desk, the same dummy with no say over the obscene prices charged by private enterprises who have bribed their way into running a business inside a national park.

“268 yuan? Why is it so expensive?”

“It’s very, very good.”

“Can you sleep there overnight?”

“No…”

“Do you get breakfast, lunch and dinner for free?”

“No, of course..”

“So HOW can you justify charging 268 yuan to go swimming??”

“It’s very good. The waters are very steamy.”

My husband gently pulled my elbow. “Let’s just pay to see the hot springs, how about that?”

在传说中的腾冲的热海,我们结束了那天最后的旅程,这片热海有几英亩沸腾的水,间歇泉,冒泡的泥浆还释放着有毒气体。至少这都是我们认为它该有的东西。我们知道有一个室外水疗泳池就是靠地下泉水加热的,当你还是个孩子的时候,若是有什么可以弥补任何失望,唯有在游泳池里嬉戏几个钟头了。
我们花了一个小时搜索房车各个角落或者更多的橱柜,就是为了找到每个人的泳衣,自从连岛海滩之后就没有穿了,把它们打包起来和换洗的衣服还有发梳放在一起。然后我们全力前往售票厅,在停车场穿过一百辆旅行车和一百个卖鸡蛋的女人,用拉菲草包着的鸡蛋。为什么是鸡蛋?我们不知道。
在巨大的售票台后面的女士问我们是否要看热海的每一个区域,或是只是选像沸腾池和珍珠之海这样的几个景点看。
事实上我们只是 “来游泳的” 我们说.
“好的,所以一共一千零七十二元”她告诉我。

我给了她一张一百的, 想她还会说还有七十二元

“不,不,一千零七十二元。每个人两百六十八”她回答。那快接近一百八十美元了。两百六十八都够在当地十个人吃饭的饭钱了,或者是中国一家四星级旅馆了。

在这一点上,我们身后是昂贵的令人失望的火山,面前时承诺中那个雾气缭绕的游泳池,我成了那些游客中的一个。一个不能相信每个东西都这么贵的游客。一个一定要搞清楚售票处这些虚假的工作人员,还有同样虚假的毫无说明就索要的无理票价,这个票价一定是私营人员通过贿赂的手段在国家公园里面经营这种生意。
268元?为什么这么贵?”
“这个真的非常,非常好”
“能在那过夜吗?”


 不行……
“那能免费吃早饭,午饭和晚饭吗?”
“当然不行。”
“那你凭什么要268元去游个泳??”
“真的特别好,是有雾汽缭绕的水池。”
我丈夫轻轻地拉了拉我的肘。“让我们就付款看看热温泉吧,怎么样?”




So we paid the relatively paltry sum of forty dollars to see the Boiling Cauldron, an impressively scalding pool of sulfur-bubbling water where suddenly eggs wrapped in raffia made perfect sense. Why just look at a pool of boiling volcanic water when you could cook stuff in it? Genius.
因此我们就付了相当于40美元的数额去看了沸腾的大锅,一个特别令人印象深刻的景象出现了,这是个滚烫的冒着硫磺泡的水池,突然有裹着拉菲草的鸡蛋出现,感觉真是好极了。当你能填满它来煮东西的时候,干嘛只是眼巴巴的看着它?简直是天才。

The cheapskates who had brought eggs in from the carpark were relegated to a simmering puddle in a far corner, away from those who could afford to pay the premium price charged by yet another private enterprise for the privilege of having their eggs (and peanuts and potatoes) cooked in the actual Boiling Cauldron.

At that point I could feel the familiar buzz of a bee in my bonnet but thankfully kept it to myself. We had all paid the same entry price, and yet we couldn’t all cook our eggs in the Boiling Cauldron, and we couldn’t all enjoy the view from the outdoor seats because those things were all extras run by private companies.

As we walked through the park VIP Beauty Spas and Very Expensive Tea Shops popped up at every turn. I don’t mind paying an entry ticket to see an attraction, far from it, but when most of my path is roped off to permit access only to people who’ve paid VIP prices? It’s just….just….JUST NOT VERY COMMUNIST now is it??

从停车场带进来鸡蛋的吝啬的卖家被安排在远处角落的一个水坑煨煮,远离那些付过额外费用给私人企业的摊贩,他们有特权可以在真正的沸腾大汽锅中煮他们的鸡蛋(还有花生和土豆)。
在那一点上我感觉很像是阀盖上一只嗡嗡的蜜蜂,但我只是自己知道。我们付了同样的门票。然而却不能在沸腾大气锅里煮鸡蛋,而且也不能享受从外面的座椅上欣赏这些风景,因为那些东西都是私营小店额外经营的。
当我们穿过公园顶级美丽水疗区以及每个拐角处突然出现的昂贵茶餐厅时,我并不介意付额外票价去看一个奇景,姑且不说这一点,但是当我大部分的道路都被围起来的时候,而且仅仅是允许付过会员价的人进去。这真的,真的,真的非常的不人性(共产主义),不是吗?




Unfortunately, the best view of this waterfall of boiling water and frog-mouthed geysers was roped off, obstructed by a large tent selling photos of tourists taken in a VIP position with the best view.

不幸的是,最好的观看沸水瀑布和青蛙嘴间歇泉的景观位置都被围起来了,被一个巨大的帐篷摊位阻塞,这个摊位就是以卖给游客在最佳位置拍摄的照片为主。

And the previously impressive boiling river had been diverted with a very attractive rock wall and pipe to feed the VIP Spa nearby.
之前印象深刻的沸腾河已经被改变了, 变成一个吸引众人的石墙和供养附近水疗的一个管道.
The pavilion and bridge were, unbelievably, Included in The Entry Price. I kept waiting for someone to spring out and charge me for walking on it.
We rounded a corner and there it was, the Unbelievably Expensive Swimming Pool in the midst of a Costly Private Resort, smack bang in the middle of a national park we had all paid to get into. The path through the valley was no longer passable because the resort had requisitioned all the land.
The girls made little conciliatory remarks to make us feel better, like “I bet they wouldn’t even let you play Marco Polo in there” and “people probably spit in the water”. 
We stood on one side of the fence and watched the only two occupants of the pool, men with white towels wrapped around their waists, walk past smoking. 
“You’ve been ripped off!” I wanted to yell at them, and at all the tourists around us. But they were too busy lining up to pay for a laminated copy of their geyser photos. Oh China.
亭子和桥也是一样,难以置信,都包含在门票里面。我等待着某个人能跳出来,控诉我在上面行走。
我们绕到一个拐角,就是这里了,在昂贵的私人度假胜地的中央就是这个贵的要命的泳池,在我们支付一切只为进入国家公园中心的时候又是猛然一惊,通往山谷的路径不再通行,因为度假村已经征用了所有的地盘。
姑娘们说了一些安抚的话语让我们感觉稍微好一点,像是“我打赌他们甚至不会让你在那里玩游戏的。” 
我们站在围栏边,看着泳池边的两个人,手腕上绑着白毛巾,抽着烟走过我们身边。
“你们上当(被宰)了!”我真想朝他们,朝着周围所有的游客喊出来。但他们都忙着排队支付那些喷泉照片的费用。唉,中国。





Tengchong Volcano Park 腾冲火山地热国家地质公园
Approximately 25km north of Tengchong just outside Mazhanxiang village.
Admission 60 yuan per person

Sea of Heat 热海
Approximately 10km south of Tengchong
Admission 60 yuan per person for limited access to attractions

Yunnan’s Biggest Market: Yousuo Friday Market 云南最大的集市: 右所周五集市

Every Friday in Yousuo, north of Dali, Yunnan’s biggest, noisiest and liveliest market takes place, spilling across the main road through town and into side streets, lanes, and a vast open area at the foot of the mountains. The local Bai people arrive from nearby farms and villages, baskets on their backs and dressed in their finest to buy and sell goods – livestock, vegetables, embroideries, woven baskets, pots and pans, sweets and tea.

Markets are a peek through the keyhole into another culture and way of life – what people eat, how they do business, how they dress. And markets are full of what the Chinese call renao 热闹, translated literally as ‘heat and noise’ but meaning ‘noisy excitement’ or ‘hubbub’. 

Renao is one of my favourite Chinese words and describes that indefinable atmosphere of all-round enjoyment and festivity that makes a good restaurant great, or a party unmissable. Noise and heat. Bustle and excitement. Crowds and activity. 

I love renao, and would rather visit a local market than a hundred temples, if the truth be known. 

Impressivley well-travelled writer Thoedora Sutcliffe recently wrote about 100 Lessons Learned from 1000 Days of Travel around the world with her son. It’s a great read and a  great list, but Number 3 particularly caught my eye:


3. Big Ticket Sights Are Almost Always Worth It …..if you’re within 50 miles of one of the wonders of the world and don’t see it, you’ll be kicking yourself for decades.

I mostly agree with her, but if there’s a market within 50 miles of one of the wonders of the world and I miss it, then I really will kick myself.

So what will you find at Yunnan’s biggest, most renao-ish market? Have a look.

大理北部一个叫右所的地方,每周五都会有云南最大规模,最喧嚣和最生机勃勃的市集。本地的白族人身着美丽的衣裳,背着竹筐,从附近的农场和村落赶来进行商品买卖——牲畜,蔬菜,刺绣,编织的篮筐,坛坛罐罐,糖果和茶叶之类的。通过窥探市集可以了解到另一种文化和生活方式人们习惯吃什么,他们如何做生意,他们如何着装。市集到处都是中国人常说的热闹,字面理解成“热烈喧闹”但实际意味着一种兴奋和喧哗。
热闹是我最喜欢用的中国词语之一,它可以描述出那种难以名状的氛围,到处是节日的喜悦和欢乐,可以用来形容一个很棒的餐馆,也可以表示一场不容错过的派对,喧闹和热烈,活跃又亢奋,充满活力的人群,我喜欢热闹,说真的,相比于成百上千的庙宇我更喜欢这样一个本地的市集。

高价景观总是值得一看

令人印象深刻的著名旅行作家克里夫最近在和其子环游世界的过程中写了一本书,从千日旅行中学习的百堂课程。读起来真的很不错,还有很棒的列表,尤其是第三章节非常吸引我。
我非常赞同她,但若有个市场离世界奇迹只有50英里,而我却没去这个市场,我真的会后悔的。
所以你猜我们会在这个云南最大最热闹的的市集发现什么好玩的呢?跟我一起看看吧。








Piglets in baskets: one farmer tried to swap a piglet for our youngest daughter, but we resisted. Just.
筐子里的小猪:一个农民想用他的小猪交换我们最小的女儿,但是我们拒绝了。这点不容置疑。

Bai women shop with baskets on their backs, straps on their foreheads or over their shoulders. Cane baskets are still the most popular but coloured woven tape baskets are becoming a new trend.
白族父女用背上的竹筐进行购物,将绳子勒在前额或者绕过她们的肩膀。藤筐仍是最受欢迎的,但彩色的编织带篮筐即将成为新的流行趋势。
The women favour a sleeveless cobalt blue or red tunic belted with a hand-embroidered sash, and a scarf or flower-embroidered head dress to cover their hair, often with a straw hat perched on top. Those who wear the flower-embroidered head-dresses often cover it with a net scarf to keep it clean in the dust of the marketplace.
女人喜欢无袖的钴蓝色或是红色束腰外衣,搭配一条手绣的腰带和围巾或是用绣花的头饰遮住他们的头发,通常也会在上面带一个稻草帽。那些带着绣花头饰的女人常常用围巾再盖上,防止市集的灰尘弄脏头饰。

Local sweets: peanut brittle, rock sugar, ground sticky rice flavoured with rose water, sesame toffee
本地甜点, 花生太妃糖, 冰糖, 玫瑰味的糯米糖, 还有芝麻太妃糖.

Tricycle truck – slightly larger than a motorbike, holds slightly more than a wheelbarrow. Maximum load seen carried: six people plus a pig and eight chickens.

三轮卡车比一般的摩托车大一些,装的东西要比独轮手推车多一些,看起来最多能装载:六个人外加一头猪和八只鸡。

If you don’t have a tricycle truck you can also carry your chicken purchases like this. Friends have suggested it would be a useful way for carrying unruly small children.
如果你没有三轮卡车,也可以这么带你的鸡。朋友建议对于不老实的小孩也可以用这种方式。

Not everyone wears traditional dress of course
当然并非每个人都穿着传统服饰

Coolest dude in Yunnan, selling thermoses. Because everyone knows only cool people use thermoses.

云南最酷的人, 都卖热水壶. 因为人人都知道只有很酷的人才会用热水瓶.

Bai woman selling joss papers for burning at the temple.

Yunnan has a unique climate and topography, so you’ll find plenty of unusual foods not seen elsewhere in China
Left: mao doufu – mold fermented tofu  Right: hai cai hua 海菜花 (ottelia accuminata) – a water plant with delicate white flowers that float on the water surface of lakes, the stalks of which are used in cooking.
云南气候和地形都很独特, 所以你能发现很多中国其他地方不会生长的食物.
左: 毛豆腐发霉的一种豆腐
右: 海菜花 (海菜花属一种生长着精美白色小花的水生植物,漂浮在湖水表面,它的茎干可以用来烹饪)

The man who sells everything from his square-metre shop: kitchen scourers, rubber gloves, safety pins, sewing needles, packets of single-use shampoo, zippers, plugs, and a thousand other useful things.
在这个一平方大小的小店,卖家销售各种商品:厨房调味品,橡胶手套,安全别针,缝衣针,一次性香波,打火机,插头还有成百上千种其他的有用玩意儿。

And lastly the street dentist, who for 50 yuan (about $8) will fit you with a shining silver cap for one of your front teeth, on the spot. Without even taking off his sunglasses.
街巷牙医,50块钱(8美元)就可以当场给你的一颗门牙镶上闪闪发亮的银套。甚至不需要脱掉他的太阳镜。

Yousuo Friday Market
Every Friday from early morning until mid-afternoon
Yousuo is on the  G214 about 40km north of Dali, Yunnan
GPS: Lat 26.018064  Long  100.063546 

Heavenly Lugu Lake 泸沽湖

We never intended to go to Lugu Lake, way off our path and straddling the border between Yunnan and Sichuan in China’s remote southwest, but as we travelled south through Sichuan to Leshan, and then Ebian, the smog and smoke that had clung to us since Chengdu cleared and we were suddenly in the midst of glorious autumn countryside, clear blue skies and pine forests, with whitewashed Yi village houses hung with garlands of bright yellow corncobs drying in the sun. It was rural China as I had always hoped it might be, without the belching factories and ugly billboards.
我们从没打算去泸沽湖,它远离我们的路径,在中国偏远的西南部地区,处于云南和四川的边界交叉处。但当我们向南旅行,穿过四川去乐山,然后去峨边彝族自治县的时候,云雾是如此地靠近我们,自从成都渐渐明晰之后,我们突然发现置身于美好的秋日乡村之中,蔚蓝的天空,还有松林,彝族村屋白色的墙壁上挂着金黄色玉米棒子在太阳下晒着。这就是我一直期待的那种田园气息的中国,没有拥挤的工厂和丑陋的广告牌。

The air smelled of autumn leaves and fir trees and we felt uplifted and relaxed, although the roads under us were bad and getting worse – bitumen giving way to uneven concrete, then cobblestones, and finally dirt. Bits of the road had fallen into the river, and other bits were more holes than road. Driving was like a constant battling obstacle course.

空气中闻到秋天落叶和杉树的味道,这让我们振奋又放松,尽管脚下的路不怎么样而且可能更糟糕一点沥青没能掩藏这些缺憾,不均匀的填充物,鹅卵石,还有那些尘土。路的少量地段已经陷入河水中,其他路段上还有更多的洼地,行驶就像是在穿越一个持续不断的障碍训练场。

Just 200km from Lijiang and the promise of a warm bed, the dirt gave way to mud as mountain springs washed across the road and left deep mud-filled furrows. There were black pigs and water buffalo wallowing in the road, the mud was so deep in places. We tried but couldn’t get through, and had to detour around Lugu Lake, which turned out to be our luckiest break in ages – climbing up to 2600m through a stunning river valley with cliffs and high waterfalls we arrived at a vast expanse of clear, deep blue water ringed by mountains. It was stunning.
离丽江只有200公里,期待中温暖的河床,然而当山泉冲刷过道路之后,留下深深的泥土沟纹,尘土也最终败给了这些泥浆。到处都是黑猪和水牛在路上打滚,个别地方的泥浆很深,我们试过几次,但是没能成功,所以我们绕道而行去了泸沽湖,结果竟是我们最为幸运的一段时光攀登2600米的高度,穿过紧邻峭壁和瀑布的绝妙山谷,我们到达一片开阔的视野,深蓝的湖水被群山环绕。真是太惊艳了。

Local legend says the lake was once small and shallow, and in its middle lived a huge fish with his head stuck out of the water. One day a greedy man pulled the fish out of the water to eat it, inadvertently unplugging a hole in the base of the lake from which rushed a flood of underground spring water, and the lake was made.
本地传说这个湖泊曾经又小又浅,在湖中央住着一条大鱼,它的头突出在水面上。一天有个贪心的人像把这条鱼拖出来吃掉它,不小心在湖的底部拔出一个洞,从这个洞里涌出大量的地下泉水,之后这个湖就形成了。

We stopped by the lake’s edge – the deep blue water was full of mysterious underwater forests we could see clearly below us, and blooms of white water hyacinths floated on top, moored by their long, trailing stems reaching down metres to the lake floor. Villages were clustered around the shore, populated by Yi, Naxi and Mosuo peoples living in log cabins and everywhere were flowers – marigolds, geraniums, azaleas, daisies and deep purple bougainvillea.  
我们在河边停下来深蓝的水充满了神秘的水下森林,我们可以清楚地看到它们就在我们下面,还有盛开的白色凤眼兰在顶部飘摇,它们系泊于此,是因为尾随的长茎深扎于数米之下的湖底。村民聚合在岸边,大部分是彝族,纳西族和摩梭族人,居住在小木屋里。到处都是鲜花金盏花,天竺葵,杜鹃花,小雏菊还有深紫色的叶子花。

I had sort of forgotten that in some places flowers are grown just because they’re lovely, after living in a country where every last bit of land is dedicated to food production and even the pots on people’s inner city windowsills are used for growing vegetables.
生活在这样一个国家中,最后一点土地都被用来粮食生产,甚至是城市里的窗台都被用来种植植物,我都有点忘记这样的地方了,鲜花自由生长,仅仅是因为它们如此可爱。

In the far distance was a little temple on a hill, and below us a man rowed a dugout canoe across the lake, gathering wild plants from the water’s edge. 
相对较远的一个地方的山坡上有座小庙,在我们下面是一个划着独木舟过湖的人,船上载着从水边采集来的野生植物。在我们知道这个之前,我们取消了在丽江(毫无疑问是很美丽的地方,但是我们之前去过)三天的停留,在闲适的达祖村预定了家庭旅店,沐浴在阳光里的阳台,非常适合阅读。要是能来上一杯冰镇的啤酒就更完美了,如果我们手边有的话。

Before we knew it we had cancelled our three day stay in Lijiang (beautiful, for sure, but we’d been there before) and booked ourselves into a guesthouse in sleepy Dazu village, with a sun-drenched balcony perfect for reading. It would have been even more perfect for drinking a glass of chilled wine, had we been able to get our hands on some.
There’s not really very much to do at Lugu Lake except look at the water, and the sky, and read a few more chapters of your book. If you have a surfeit of energy you can cycle around the lake shores to see other gorgeous villages, or take a dugout canoe trip to one of the small islands while the Mosuo women sing canoeing songs to you. I’ve heard the Mosuo women live in the world’s last fiunctioning matriarchal society, where children take their mother’s name.
在泸沽湖除了看湖水,蓝天,阅读几页你带的书以外,没有太多的事可做。如果你精力旺盛,你可以骑行环湖看看其他美丽的村庄,或是划一叶孤舟到众多小岛中的一个,途中还能听到摩梭族女人向你唱着划舟的小曲儿。我听说摩梭族是世界上最后一个母系氏族社会,孩子们跟随母亲的姓氏。

We spent three long lazy days swimming, canoeing, cycling and eating, just enjoying the chance to do very little for once. Our guesthouse cooked us farmer food when we were hungry – a whole chicken braised with pickles and potatoes, fried slices of gourd, mountains of rice – or we walked to one of the little restaurants around the shore and ate char-grilled chicken cooked on a spit, or charcoal lake fish sprinkled with spice and salt. 
Sitting together in the sun, my daughter said to me ‘Travelling is great, but it’s not exactly a holiday, is it?’ a distinction I’d never made myself, but the more I thought about it the more I realized she was right. 
Travelling and holidaying are not the same thing. Travelling is often difficult, and tiring, and sometimes just wears you down. Holidaying implies a much more relaxed state of mind and much less attention needed to the issues of roads and maps and food supplies and drinkable water. 
I resolved there and then, when possible, to try and spend more of this last third of our long, long travels holidaying more. Roads and drinkable water permitting. 
我们度过了三天慵懒的时光,游泳,划舟,骑行还有品尝美食,尽情享受,什么都不做,饿了,我们的家庭旅馆为我们烹饪农家菜用咸菜和土豆炖的一整只鸡,炒西葫芦片,还有盛得像小山一样的米饭或者我们漫步到湖边的其他小餐馆吃口水鸡,或是撒着香料和盐巴的碳烤鱼。
就像我女儿说的旅行太棒了,但她不仅是一个假日,不是吗?我自己从未明确区分过,但我越多地考虑这一点,就越觉得她是对的。旅行和假日不是一件事。旅行通常很艰辛疲惫,有时候会让你筋疲力尽。假日更是一种精神状态的放松,不需要太多关注道路,地图,食物和水等等这些琐事。
我决定了,只要有可能,将会用超过最后旅行的三分之一的时间来享受更多的假日。只要道路和饮用水这些条件允许。



Nature Inn, Dazu Village

Lugu Lake 泸沽湖
Entry 80 yuan per person from either Sichuan or Yunnan side, valid for whole lake
从四川或是云南进都是每人八十元,环湖期间一直有效


Nature Inn 本色客栈
Dazu Village, Lugu Lake, Sichuan
Doubles from 168 yuan/night
+86 18280617758
四川省泸沽湖达祖村本色客栈
两人 168/
四川省泸沽湖达祖村本色客栈


The trip so far….

Aliens in Ebian 峨边的外国人

‘Are you from Singapore?’ the man at the petrol station asked me.

‘Singapore?’ I said, wondering what part of my fair skin, freckles and light hair looked exactly Singaporean. ‘No, no, Australia. Ao-da-li-ya’
‘Australia!’ he repeated, but mixed up the syllables so that it came out sounding like Italy in Chinese.
‘No, not Italy: yi-da-li, Australia: ao-da-li-ya’ I clarified.

‘Yes! ao-lo-di-yi!’ I’m pretty sure that was an entirely made-up country just for my benefit. Australy. Itstralia.
‘Yes!’ I said, handing over the money. ‘Very big! Not many people!’
Meandering south from Leshan’s Giant Buddha, we entered the long river valley of the Dadu River in southern Sichuan, a place very similar to my standard description of Australia – very big, and not many people, even fewer of whom seemed to have heard of my home country. Perhaps it was my accent.

The area was remote and beautifully wild – tall craggy cliffs rising vertically from the river bed towards the sky, with plummeting narrow waterfalls rushing back down to the river at intervals. In such remote and mountainous country flat land for farming was scarce.

你来自新加坡吗?加油站的那个男士问我。
新加坡?我重复了一遍,难道是我的皮肤,雀斑或是头发使我看起来像个新加坡人。不,不是的,澳大利亚,我来自澳大利亚。
澳大利亚!他重复了一遍,但是混淆了几个字母所以导致用中文发出澳大利亚这个词的时候听起来像意大利。
不对,不是意大利,意利,是澳大利亚,澳我澄清道。
好的!澳意!我完全相信这一定是出于对我的尊重他组合了这个国家。澳大利,意大利亚。
是的!我说,一边把钱递给他。地方很大,但是人不是很多。
乐山大佛向南漫游,我们进入了四川南部的大渡河的一条河谷,这里很符合我刚刚对澳大利亚的描述很大,但是人不是很多,这里的人似乎更少听说过我的国家。但也许是因为我发音的缘故。
这个地方偏远而独具野生的美丽高大崎岖的峭壁沿着河床直冲天际,倾泻而下的瀑布不时冲击着河流。在如此偏远而遍布群山的乡村,几乎没有用来耕作的平坦的农田。








I thought, mistakenly as it turns out, that we had covered all of China’s worst roads in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Qinghai. But Sichuan had saved the worst of all for us – a 68km stretch of rocks and mud weaving in and out below the construction of a new riverside highway, alarmingly punctuated now and again by landslides.

The road, if I can truthfully call it that, was only one lane wide, so we drove in a caravan between trucks until there was a slight widening, then stopped so the caravan of trucks and cars travelling in the opposite direction could pass us. The going was painfully slow.

The road also welcomed us with a sign saying:

‘LESHAN COUNTY: ALIENS NOT PERMITTED TO ENTER’

which we neglected to photograph on the grounds that it might later incriminate us.

‘Are you an alien?’ I asked my husband. 
‘Certainly not!’ he replied. ‘Are you?’
‘No!’ I said, as we both failed to make eye contact with the police patrol parked under the sign.
‘I’m sure they’ll let us know if we’re considered aliens’ we decided, knowing full well we might be turned around at any minute by the men in black. Except turning a campervan around on a single lane mud track when there are sixty impatient trucks banked up in both directions was always going to be tricky. At least, that’s what we were counting on.

That 68km section of road took eight long exhausting hours to traverse, and as you can well imagine there was nowhere to camp that wasn’t already occupied by a construction crew or a broken-down bus.

Amongst all of this, the town of Ebian rose up like an oasis. More accurately, Ebian peered through a dense fog of pollution from the nearby nickel smelters and factories, sitting at a sharp bend in the Dadu River and clinging to the steep slopes of the riverside hills. It twinkled at us in the growing dark, beckoning us to come and find a guest house or hotel, a more attractive option than camping at the petrol station amongst people who confused Italy and Australia.

我原以为我们已经在内蒙古,新疆和青海经历了中国最糟糕的道路。但结果是我误解了这些,四川留给我们最艰难的行程在一条60公里的道路上上下颠簸,上面尽是石头和泥土,这是一条新修在河边的公路,时不时可以看到山体滑坡的警示。
我深信这条路只有一条小巷那么宽,因此我们只能在大卡车之间有些许宽度的时候行驶,然后如果对面有卡车或是汽车可以直接过去的时候我们就先停下来,这样的话我们的行进速度非常缓慢。
路边也有个标示注明:
‘LESHAN COUNTY: ALIENS NOT PERMITTED TO ENTER’
乐山县:外国人不准进入。” 由于担心事后受到指控,我们没有在路上拍照。
你是外国人吗?我问我丈夫。
当然不是!他答道。你呢?
不是!我说。我们都没敢看在停在警示牌下的巡警。
我确信他们能告诉我们是否是外地人,我们决定搞清楚这一点,否则在接下来的任何一分钟都可能被灰溜溜地赶回来。来回拥堵了60多辆不耐烦的卡车,在泥泞的单行线上掉头是一个技术活,至少,我们希望能做到。
这条68公里的路耗费了我们8个小时的时间行驶。你可以想象到根本没有地方让我们安营扎寨,因为经过的区域已经完全被建筑施工队或是坏掉的巴士占据了。
此间,峨边彝族自治县的出现就像是一片绿洲。更准确的说,从附近镍熔炉工厂产生的污染浓雾望去,峨边彝族自治县坐落于大渡河的转弯处,紧邻河畔丘陵的陡坡处,在渐浓的夜色中闪着光亮,吸引我们前往去找到一个宾馆或是旅店,相比于露宿在有那些搞混意大利和澳大利亚人群的加油站中,这是一个更为诱人的选项。
在陡峻和蜿蜒的道路上我们慢速行进,进入镇中心,我们完全被这地方搞懵了,到处是三轮出租车,震耳的音乐,汽车鸣笛声,还有晃眼的闪光灯标,这个地方的发展的速度超越其本身应有的,而且还没有解决好过剩的人口问题。
这么多的人,一时间震惊了我们。
五十张陌生的脸庞好奇的看着我们停车,然后看我们走出房车,询问我们要不要去马路对面的小旅馆住宿。
穿过新一批的峨边彝族自治县房屋建设区,在一个大厅里三个年轻女人身着套装,玩着手机,她们一起看过来,下巴都快掉了,也许我就是个外国人。
这让我们感觉到有点不舒服,但不会像之前那么不舒服,那时候被20个感兴趣的本地人围着,拥挤在旅馆的小角落,问着一连串的问题:
你们从哪里来啊?
你是做啥的啊?
你一个月挣多少钱啊?
你怎么会说汉语啊?
外边的小孩是你家的吗?
她说的是啥啊?
她来自澳大利亚。月收入人民币一万元。两个女儿。
人群传阅着我们的护照。
我们这里没来过外国人!桌边的少女告诉我。这让我不那么安心,但是好在本地的警察没对我们产生太多兴趣,我们也想远离他们。























We wound down the steep and twisting road into the centre of town, utterly chaotic with a mayhem of tricycle taxis, blaring music, horns, and bright flashing lights, a place that was rapidly outgrowing itself and hadn’t worked out yet what to do with all the surplus people. 

The surplus people, meanwhile, had suddenly spotted us.

Fifty incredulous faces watched us park, then watched me get out of the campervan to ask about rooms at the tiny hotel across the road.

In the lobby three young women wearing suits were playing on their mobile phones over a scale model of a new Ebian housing development. They looked up in unison and their jaws literally dropped. Perhaps I was an alien after all.

This made me feel a little uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as the process of registration which involved twenty very interested locals crowding the hotel’s small counter and shooting me with a battery of questions:

‘Where are you from?’
‘What’s your job?’
‘How much do you earn each month?’
‘How come you can speak Chinese?’
‘Are those your children outisde?’
‘What did she say?’
‘She’s from Australia. Monthly income 10,000 renminbi. Two daughters.’

Our passports did the rounds of the crowd.

‘We don’t have any foreigners here!’ the teenage girl manning the desk told me. This reassured me not at all, but as yet the local police had shown no interest in us and we wanted to keep it that way.

For people unaccustomed to aliens, Ebian’s locals were mighty keen to get to know us. A tight crowd followed us around the small night market until we found a restaurant that looked clean and welcoming, but as we sat down the rosy-cheeked waitress took one panicked look at us and ran off, returning five baffling minutes later with the owner, an older man.

‘Hel-lo!’ he said, slow and loud. ‘Speak Chi-nese?’
‘Yes, we can’ I answered, in Chinese, at which the owner turned to the waitress and scolded her for pulling him away from his TV show to come and speak a language to these foreigners she could clearly already speak.
She blushed and giggled and then sat herself down at our table, and in the most incredibly rapid-fire Sichuan dialect said:
‘Ha! I’m-so-relieved-you-speak-Chinese-for-a-minute-there-I-thought-I-wouldn’t-be-able-to-communicate-with-you!! You-can-understand-everything-I’m-saying-right??’
‘So!’ she continued, with scant pause for breath, ‘Where-are-you-from-where-do-you-live-do-you-eat-spicy-food-how-much-do-you-earn?’
‘Can we order some dinner first?’ I asked.
By now, all the other kitchen staff and the owner were also seated at our table, along with their kids, waiting to hear the answer to her questions.
So we ate dinner, and in between bites tried to answer everything they wanted to know – how many square metres our house in Shanghai was, whether we thought Sichuan was better than any other province in China, and why we were able to eat spicy food, despite everything they’d heard to the contrary. 
The next morning, by now familiar with everyone in downtown Ebian, we went for a walk. What I hadn’t noticed in the dark the night before was now obvious. Ebian’s population is about half Yi people, the women wearing intricate beaded headresses and looped plaits. They thought we were incredibly exotic, touching our daughters’ hair and skin, but we felt like very shabbily-dressed…well…aliens. Strangers in a strange land.

对于那些不熟悉外国人的人,峨边彝族自治县的本地人很热衷于了解我们。在夜市中一群人紧密地跟着我们直到我们找到一家看起来还比较干净好客的饭店,但是当我们入座的时候,一个面若桃花的服务生惊恐的看了我们一眼跑开了,经历了令人困惑的五分钟后,她把老板带来了,一个年纪稍长的男人。
你好!他大声拖长声音道,能说汉语?
是的,我们能我用汉语回答到,老板扭头指责服务员打扰他看电视,她能和外国人沟通的。
她红着脸傻笑着,然后坐在我们桌边,以快得难以置信的四川方言说道:
哈!知道你会汉语感觉舒服多了,之前我还以为我没法和你交流了呢!!你能听懂我说的话,是吧??
那!短暂的停顿后,她继续说道,你们从哪来啊?你们住哪儿啊?你们吃辣的食物吗?你们挣多少钱啊?
我们能先点菜吗?我问到。
此刻,所有厨房的其他员工和老板也坐在我们的桌子旁,和他们的孩子一起,等着听我们的回答。
所以我们吃过晚饭,在陷入新一轮的提问前我们试着回答他们想知道的每一件事我们在上海的房子有多大,我们觉得是不是四川比中国的其他省更好,还有为什么我们能吃辣的食物,尽管他们想听到完全不同的回答。
第二天早晨,我们已经熟悉了峨边彝族自治县这个镇的每一个人,所以我们出去散了个步,之前在深沉的夜色中我们没有注意到,但是此刻竟是如此明显,峨边彝族自治县的人口几乎一半是彝族,女人带着复杂的珠状头饰,而且辫子是围成圈的。他们认为我们非常的奇异,摸着我们女儿的头发和皮肤,让我们感觉自己确实穿的有些怪异,好吧,外国人。我们是在奇异土地上的奇怪的人。










For a touch of familiarity we ate breakfast at the same restaurant as the night before, where our rosy-cheeked waitress (above, left) whizzed between tables filling in the other customers on our particulars and answering questions on our behalf. I was ever so grateful.
I never did find out whether we were actually allowed to be in Ebian or not, or why that particular area might have been restricted to us. But should your craft ever land there, a friendly and curious welcome is guaranteed. 

由于些许的熟悉感,我们在前晚吃饭的同一家饭店吃的早餐,就是那个面若桃花的女孩(上图左侧)所在的饭店。之前她周旋于满是顾客的饭桌之间,并且从我们的角度出发回答了那些问题,我真的非常感激她。
我始终也没搞清楚我们是否被允许进如峨边彝族自治县,或者为什么这个特别的地方要限制我们的进入。如若是你旅行至此,你准会收到友好又带有好奇心的欢迎。


Where is Ebian?
Leshan County
Sichuan Province, China
Practically in the middle really.